Believe it or not, it takes more to end war with an expansionist foreign power than showing up with a single confiscated vessel full of people with no clue how to run it. We didn’t intend to bring it here, but we were immediately put at the mercy of the Consuls Exalted, as they called themselves. With Venus holding my hand, I made it to the command pedestal and slipped my hands free of their gloves to try and gain control over the system. If I hadn’t had all that time to practice with this army’s network defenses, I might have been kept out.
When I cracked that bad boy wide open, sections of the floor rose up to form stations and round seats in front of them. It was a circle, except for four gaps. The consoles unlocked for them as well. Quietly, not transmitting to the Consuls, I informed Venus, “I’m doing a diagnostic to figure out what this puppy can do.”
“Who put you in charge?” asked Warman. Eschaton stepped up next to him.
Venus had my back. “If you know anyone else who can fly this thing and learn what it does, be my guest.”
“What is your offer for clemency?” asked one of the Consuls.
“Y’all wanna talk?” I asked.
“Put us through,” Warman said.
“Putting you though,” I echoed, so he wouldn’t immediately start talking about having a wedgie or insulting me.
“Consuls, I’m Warman, the Man of War, and this is Eschaton. Earth’s mightiest heroes are on your doorstep. We hope you make the best choice for yourselves and your people.”
“What do you have to offer us?” asked one of the Consuls. I mentally designated him Lefty, because his image appeared on the Left on the dome around us.The one on the Right looked bored.
Eschaton spoke up. “He just told you, we have Earth’s mightiest heroes, here to stop you if you don’t.”
Righty asked, “How many armies?”
“Excuse me?” asked Eschaton, bristling.
Lefty leaned forward to his camera. “What my colleague means is what are you going to use to beat us? You come to our home, you demand things of us, and you didn’t even offer us anything to trade. If you don’t want to do this the civilized way, we wonder what you hope to accomplish against our armies.”
I got an idea what the sensors were and how they worked, and I set about figuring out what was up outside. I expected another Earth, probably another advanced one. Instead, I found myself poking around Uranus. We were on a whole different planet in the solar system, hanging over the world’s largest urban center. Environmental sensors on the vessel noted the hole and advised a quarantine, despite the presence of breathable atmosphere and decent temperature over the place.
I looked into the domeship to figure out what was up with it and all the way more urgent alerts. There was minor damage and break-ins all over, which made sense. I went ahead and unlocked everything except for an area noted to be the brig. Whatever else, I don’t think any of our people ended up there already. There was still some fighting going on at this one bay. Containers hadn’t been launched or something. I figured that meant things holding infantry, their vehicles, or the tanks. I locked that area back down and sealed it. No air in or out oughta fix things, along with dropping the temperature in that part of the ship. The problem should sort itself out in payroll.
With me in control of the intercom and these guiding lights, I could even better direct people around to any areas of other resistance. Just because almost all the soldiers were gone didn’t mean it was a simple thing to capture. This ship was big enough to house an entire army and support staff. We still had most of the support staff up here, and not nearly enough heroes or Buzzkills. We’d need to arrange a headcount to see who we have and what they can do if anything worse happens. I don’t trust these Consuls.
Some would say that they don’t trust people further than they can throw them, which always seemed like an odd saying to me. In my line of work, human pest control, I tended not to trust most people unless I could get my hands on them. I didn’t usually need to throw them to gain their compliance after that point. It’s not really a part of my fighting style. I suppose a more reasonable saying for me is that “I don’t trust them further than I can kill them.” On my new home, that’s pretty much the entire Earth. Here, it’s less than a room in distance.
I noticed a number of smaller aircraft gathering outside, not staying particularly far away. None tried to land on us, but I didn’t like the cut of their jibs.That’s when I discovered the Domeship had no weapons systems of its own. I checked over anything we could use and found that the same system that hopped dimensions could also move something within the same dimension, via wormhole. That’s interesting. With all those things gathering there, I might need something like that.
An angry statement from Righty the Consul got my attention. “Your destruction of an entire province is an affront to our republic. Your presence here signifies your need for our civilization.”
Warman folded his arms. “You attacked us out of nowhere. You don’t get to complain about your casualties.”
Venus spoke up to ask, “Why did you invade?”
“Chief Executor Paldrin saw an opportunity to add another province to our control. We would bring our civilizing presence and superb leadership to your world.”
“I’ve heard this before. Your idea of civilization means taking our resources and trying to reeducate awy our culture,” Eschaton said. He would know, given his Native American heritage.
“Our administration of the province would cost us. We only ask you pay your fair share of the expenses. It is better to surrender before the cost to you becomes too burdensome,” Lefty said.
I think pretty much all of us were ready to tell them where they could stick their civilization, though the fact that they were on Uranus killed the impact of the phrase.
On the intercom, I reached out. “If any of those Justice Rangers are onboard, we could use some city-wide offense here.”
I muted the Consuls. “We’ve got a bunch of aircraft outside and no weapons on this thing for some bizarre reason.”
“How much is a bunch?” Warman asked.
The ship was pretty good about sorting that out for me. “I’ve got 74 target locks on us currently. Don’t know how many friends you brought with you, but I don’t know what they’re packing.”
He went over to check a console. “Can you fly us over a city?”
“We are over one. Biggest one on the planet.”
“They wouldn’t,” Eschaton said.
I rolled my eyes. “I would.”
“We can take them,” Warman said, looking to Eschaton.
“I’d feel better if I knew what we had on our side,” I said. “There’s a saying I keep in mind, a joke I heard once. ‘I didn’t know how many of them it would take to whoop my ass, but I knew how many they were gonna use. That’s a handy piece of knowledge to have right there.’”
“Evasive maneuvers?” Warman asked.
“Dude, it’s basically a floating city. I think I can make it go faster than it traveled between. D.C. And E.C., but I couldn’t dodge whale dick in this thing.” I got an alert, but not much of one. The ship shook as explosions tore into it.
“What’s going on?” asked Venus.
Eschaton flamed on, but I called out, “Stop! I’ll get us out of here.”
“You said you couldn’t move that fast,” Warman growled, hefting his three-barreled cannon.
I spoke to them and over intercom at once, “Hold onto something, people. Prepare for starburst!”
A white aura surrounded the ship. It didn’t seem to last as long this time, and we didn’t catch a view o the universe divide. When it settled, we were no longer under attack, though the Consuls were still on our dome.
“Where are we?” Warman asked, stepping up close to me.
“The other side of the planet,” I told him. “It can do shorter jumps. I believe we should reopen talks with the Consuls.”
“Do it,” Eschaton said with a hard voice. Parts of him still burned.
I reopened the line and Venus is the one who stepped up. “You just opened fire on us while we parleyed.”
“There is nothing to parley,” Lefty said.
“Then we shall have to get medieval on Uranus,” I said.
“Is that supposed to be a threat? What’s that mean?” asked Righty.
“Oh, not much. Illuminated manuscript, the spread of crenallations, beating up Popes. Maybe grabbing a heavy chunk of metal and bashing in the heads of the half of your people who don’t die from plague.”
“How dare you?” asked Righty with righteous indignation.
“How dare you?!” countered Venus.
Warman came up next to me. “Cut these sister-kissing sons of bitches off, will you?”
I nodded and ended transmission. I also double-checked the network defenses of the ship and added some of my own improvements. “Done.”
“What do we do now?” Eschaton asked.
“We need to know who we have and what they can do,” Warman said. “We should get rid of their crew.”
“If I may,” a voice said from behind us. We all turned and saw a man in white coveralls who now had the stinger swords of my Buzzkill guards at his throat. “I am one of the officers. The Consuls really tried to kill us?”
“Looks like it,” Venus said.
“That is a violation of my rights as a member of a patrician family,” he said.
“What are you gonna do about it?” Eschaton said, approaching.
The man backed away from the heat coming off the hero. “My name is Sollis Raan, and I want to help you. I think many in my crew would, now.”
“You think?” Eschaton asked.
“Our leaders tried to kill all of us, from the highest patrician to the lowest plebian,” Sollis said. “I think I’m the highest-ranked officer aboard now.”
“I want a full census of your people,” Warman said. He lowered his cannon, but in a way that made it clear he’d have no issue raising it up again. Moot point, I think. If the man tried anything, I saw where at least three different stinges would be stabbed through him before Warman could twitch his trigger finger. “Eschaton here will go with you, make sure you’re an honest man. We already plan to deal with a couple of dishonest ones, so we don’t need any more.”
Sollis nodded. I nodded to the Buzzkills, who lowered their stinger swords. Eschaton damped down his flames a bit as he walked Sollis out to go see to their part.
I looked around to Venus and Warman. “I have good news and bad news.” I didn’t wait for the inevitable decision about which is first. “Good news, we are on the same planet as the Consuls. That was the capital we were just over. We can get there anytime we want, I think.”
“The bad news?” Venus asked.
“We are on Uranus. I’m going to make a lot of bad jokes.”
Warman grunted. “Keep your trap shut. This isn’t cops and robbers. This is war.”
I nodded. “You got it. I’m sure you’ll find there’s no one better suited to going to war on Uranus.”
And so began our efforts to tear Uranus a new one.